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Tender pasta is tossed in the classic French butter sauce that is Beurre Blanc and crowned with a single perfectly bronzed sea scallop. Délicieux.
Enjoy scallops as much as my family does? Don’t forget to peruse these recipes for alternate preparation methods for scallops!
Brown Butter Seared Scallops
Beurre Blanc translates to ‘white butter.’ It is a classic French sauce composed of white wine, vinegar, and shallots. The sauce is reduced, and portions of cold butter are whisked in briskly until the sauce is somewhat thick and exceptionally smooth.
Béchamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, Mayonnaise, Tomato Sauce, and Velouté are the originally named five ‘mother sauces’ of French cuisine. Beurre Blanc is not officially a mother sauce, however it is a classically taught base from which other sauces are built. It is flexible in that it can take on flavors like chili, ginger, and mustard.
Today, in this method, I am introducing the flavor of fresh rosemary, an element very often found here in Charleston, South Carolina cooking with much of our fresh and daily seafood. Not only will this sauce elevate the tender capellini pasta, but it will also work to compliment the modest sea scallop. This sauce originates in Loire Valley cuisine and is the inspiration for this very Charleston dish.
Capellini Beurre Blanc is tender pasta with a classic French butter sauce. It is positively outstanding.
This sauce originates in Loire Valley cuisine and is the inspiration for this very Charleston dish.
By now, it’s no surprise that I am a fan of Southern cuisine. Finding exquisite dishes here in Charleston, South Carolina is not hard, as chef’s from all over are influenced heavily by cuisine from all over. Classic dishes do manage however, to adopt the nuances of Southern fare in the end. A simple pasta sauce that many of you may be familiar with, is quite popular here in the Holy City. This is due in large part to its flavor profile working exceptionally well with fish and shellfish, something we here in Charleston have a whole lot of!
Capellini Beurre Blanc is tender pasta with a classic French butter sauce. Here, I am enhancing with fresh rosemary. And because Beurre Blanc is reminiscent of another classic dish you may be familiar with, COQUILLE ST. JACQUES, I am adding a single and perfectly bronzed sea scallop to the finished dish. Scallops are lovely prepared so many different ways. I still go back to my trusty cast iron skillet, some unsalted butter, and a healthy glug of crème Sherry.
The delicate strands of capellini are the perfect foil for this elegant and easy sauce. The scallop is just a bonus!
It’s been a good stretch since I last posted about a good pasta dish. There are not many nights that I will reach for pasta anymore. Mainly because I think I over-indulged for so long that I grew tired of it. How does anybody EVER grow tired of pasta? Yet in an effort to keep things fresh at the family dinner table, I reached deep into my vault of popular dinner dishes where I knew my family would not only be happy, but satisfied. And pasta ALWAYS equals satisfaction!
Living in a coastal city means lots and lots of fresh bounties from the Atlantic. I have the choice of driving a tad north of me to McClellanville for fresh seafood and fish, or just south of me to Shem Creek for the same. On that rare occasion where I am able to get hold of fresh sea scallops, I take advantage. The payout is tenfold.
When compared to the French mother sauces such as velouté, which has been around since at least the 1600s, Beurre Blanc is a relative newcomer. Beurre Blanc is not technically considered one of the five French mother sauces.
Fresh seared scallops prepared over medium heat for a few minutes on either side, especially when cooked in wine or better yet, brown butter, is a great end to my work day. I give the screaming hot skillet a good douse of crème Sherry and allow the scallops to slowly caramelize. It’s just how it’s done. BUT, to that end, there are plenty of other ways scallops may be prepared to where they delight the eater.
The inspiration for this dish comes from a trip to Shem Creek to purchase fresh shrimp. I swapped the shrimp for what were the BIGGEST sea scallops I’d ever seen. But what to do with these absolutely colossal scallops? The most popular dish that comes to mind as I referenced earlier, is COQUILLE ST. JACQUES, or scallops Beurre Blanc. This popular dish of caramelized scallops with Beurre Blanc sauce is served in a large scallop shell. often, the scallops are dusted with seasoned breadcrumbs or an herb and lemon gremolata and broiled. The intense heat creates a beautifully golden and crunchy top.
Butter is a heavenly thing. Mounted into sauces and reductions, it’s the difference between dull, watery concoctions and smooth, balanced, silken creations.
A Beurre Blanc recipe can vary if other flavors aside from the wine and shallot are desired. Lemon and rosemary are two of the most popular, but are far from the only clever profiles the sauce is capable of taking on. I have used champagne interchangeably with wine to great success. Also, fresh truffle, although not much of that is required to make a pronounced statement. Capers stand out, too. Todays recipe is old school though. Just the method for Beurre Blanc itself. The scallops are seared separately (I have this “thing” about fishy-tasting pasta), then set atop the dressed capellini moments before serving.
Variations of this sauce abound. I keep the ingredient list simple. White wine, butter, shallots, garlic, cream, lemon juice, and fresh rosemary. If you are not keen on the rosemary visible in the final product, do not chop it. Rather add a muddled but an in tact branch to the sauce as it simmers to infuse the flavor. I muddle it with the back of a spoon or in a mortar and pestle. This helps to release the oils. Discard before serving.
Beurre Blanc satisfies our urge for richness.
Recipes like this make cooking fun and easy and (I think) stress free. This recipe for easy Beurre Blanc is easily broken down into a smaller size where it can be served as an appetizer or starter. If however you are inclined, keep it as a main and serve with a light salad and torn baguette.
What Are Some Variations To Try When It Comes To Beurre Blanc?
- Lemon Beurre Blanc Sauce – in addition to the fresh lemon juice, also add the zest of half a lemon; discard solids before serving
- Lemon Caper Beurre Blanc – add some lightly toasted capers to the sauce just before serving
- Seared Scallops With Beurre Blanc – bathe the seared scallops directly in the finished sauce just before serving
- Garlic Beurre Blanc – add additional minced garlic to the shallots while reducing and discard solids before serving
- Champagne Beurre Blanc – substitute Champagne for the white wine
- Lemon Buerre Blanc Without Cream – traditionally, Beurre Blanc is prepared without cream; the addition of cream means you are making the sauce into something else; simply omit the cream
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
Capellini Beurre Blanc with Bronzed Sea Scallop
- cast iron skillet
- pasta pot and colander for draining
for the bronzed scallops
- 6 very large sea scallops rinsed and patted dry
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons crème Sherry
- pinch sea salt
- pinch black pepper
for the capellini Beurre Blanc
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- ⅓ cup shallots fresh, chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic fresh, chopped
- 2 teaspoons rosemary leaves fresh, chopped
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup unsalted butter COLD, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice fresh
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil optional for use in boiling the pasta to prevent sticking
- ¾ pound dried capellini
optional as garnish
- additional fresh rosemary leaves or parsley
- In an 8-quart pasta pot, bring 7 quarts of salted water to a boil. Remove tough muscle from side of each scallop if necessary.
for the Beurre Blanc
- In a medium heavy saucepan simmer the white wine along with the vinegar, chopped shallot, garlic, and rosemary until reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Do not rush this step. A simmer is perfect, a boil is too harsh.
- Add the heavy cream and simmer until liquid is reduced again, this time by about half. Add butter all at once and cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly. Work the sauce just until creamy and butter is incorporated. Sauce must not get hot enough to liquify. It should be the consistency of hollandaise.
- Remove pan from heat and stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
for the scallops
- Pat scallops dry and season with salt and pepper. In a cast iron skillet, heat the 3 tablespoons butter over moderate heat until foamy. Allow the butter to then turn clear and then golden and finally start to turn brown. It will smell nutty. Watch closely and stir often.
- Arrange the six scallops, being sure not to crowd, in skillet and cook, undisturbed, 1 to 2 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown. Turn scallops over and cook, undisturbed, 1 to 2 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown. Transfer scallops to a bowl and keep warm.
- Remove the hot skillet from the heat and add the crème Sherry. Return to the heat and allow the brown butter and Sherry mixture to begin to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Return the scallops and any juices to the skillet and baste the scallops with the caramelized liquids with a spoon.
- Cook pasta in boiling water with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. The oil helps to prevent the pasta from sticking once it's drained. Cook according to package directions until al dente and drain in a colander. Transfer pasta to a heated bowl. Pour the Beurre Blanc sauce through a fine mesh sieve onto pasta. Toss well, ensuring you coat every strand of the capellini to further prevent any sticking.
- Plate the pasta into individual pasta bowls and crown each with a single bronzed scallop. Gently spoon a very tiny bit of the pan liquid atop each scallop. Pan liquid will be very thick and full of flavor.
The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.
Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.